It’s been a good couple of weeks for Trinity High School junior Josh Haley.
After two years and thousands of casts, the 17-year-old finally caught his first musky a couple of weeks ago, a 40-inch, 35-pounder that anyone would be proud of.
A day later, he caught another. This one, a 46-incher that weighed 41 pounds. Last weekend, he caught two more.
Coupled with the four muskys his father, Bob Haley of Waynesburg has landed in that same time period, it’s been a productive couple of weeks fishing in the Rices Landing and Monongahela areas on the Monongahela River.
But it wasn’t always easy.
“It definitely takes a long time,” said Josh Haley. “I spent the past two years trying to catch one. That’s why they call muskies the ‘fish of 10,000 casts.’”
Haley had to be very near his 10,000th cast when he landed his first fish. But it was his second one, landed a day later, that had him excited. That 46-incher had a 24-inch girth and weighed in at 41 pounds.
Haley landed the big fish on ultra-light tackle with just 30-pound test after a 20-minute battle.
“We went fishing kind of spur of the moment, so I basically only had my bass tackle,” Haley said.
It isn’t a state record – that belongs to a 54-pound, 3-ounce monster caught in Conneaut Lake in 1924 – but it will certainly rank Haley among the top anglers in the state in 2013.
Last year’s top musky caught in Pennsylvania weighed in at 44-4 and measured 54.5 inches with a girth of 25.5 inches. That fish, which was caught in Kinzua Reservoir, was one of just two muskys registered by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in 2012 that came in at larger than 40 pounds.
Haley has been bass fishing with his father for quite some time, but took up musky fishing because he wanted a bigger challenge.
“I heard it was really fun,” Haley said. “It’s a lot different than bass fishing. You can horse a bass into the boat. With musky fishing, there’s more of a challenge trying to get bring it in, getting it into the boat without losing it, keeping it from getting tangled in brush.”
In fact, Haley says he had a fish on in the same hole that he caught his largest musky that was even bigger.
“In that same spot, I missed one that was noticeably bigger,” he said. “I got it all the way to the boat, but my dad mis-netted it.”
Not that he can be angry about that. His father taught him how to fish for musky – though in the two previous years when Josh wasn’t catching them, that became a source of frustration.
“It was a little tough watching him catch them when I wasn’t,” he admitted.
Now, it seems Haley is well on his way toward achieving his career goal.
“My dream would be to find a company to sponsor me or if I could be a salesman for a lure company,” Haley said. “I could go out and use their lures and demonstrate for people how to use them.”
It seems as if, after two years, he’s getting a pretty good idea of how to do that.
• The Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold a public meeting on Chronic Wasting Disease Wednesday, March 20, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Spring Cove Middle School auditorium, 185 Spring Grove Circle, Roaring Spring, Blair County.
Commission staff will provide information on the recent discovery of CWD in three hunter-harvested deer from Blair and Bedford counties, as well as the latest news on this evolving situation, and background information on CWD, a fatal deer disease. Agency staff also will discuss the management challenges that go along with finding CWD in the free-ranging deer population.
These were the first confirmed positive cases of CWD in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania. The disease was first documented in early October, 2012, by the state Department of Agriculture in a captive deer on an Adams County deer farm.
Outdoors Editor F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.